2001: A Space Odyssey is a cinematic masterpiece. On this there can be no debate. Reasonable people can disagree as to exactly where it fits within a list of the greatest movies of all time, but if you argue against its inclusion, well…you’re a bad person. Simple as that.
There’s a lot that contributes to 2001‘s success—not the least of which is the music of Hungarian composer György Ligeti. (Click here to listen to Atmosphères, a “micropolyphonic” piece that Ligeti wrote in 1961, and that appears in its entirety in the film.)
The smartest move, though, was also the most daring: you never actually see an alien. But we came pretty darn close, according to this article. Arthur C. Clarke, who shared a screenwriting credit with director Stanley Kubrick, explains:
“…”Our ultimate solution now seems to me the only possible one, but before arriving at it we spent months imagining strange worlds and cities and creatures, in the hope of finding something that would produce the right shock of recognition. All this material was abandoned, but I would not say that any of it was unnecessary. It contained the alternatives that had to be eliminated, and therefore first had to be created. […] just as a sculptor, it is said, chips down through the stone toward the figure concealed within.”
Funny how the creative process is pretty much the same no matter where it’s applied.